The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego provides a clear illustration against the overreach of the state in religious affairs. The three faithful Jews refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold. The King's religious test allowed for three Jews to step out in boldness and proclaim faith in the one true God. Acts 5:29 implores us to "obey God rather than men." The three were thrown into a fiery furnace but the Lord protected and saved them and they were uplifted and honored for their devotion and actions.
Religious liberty is commonly referred to as "our first freedom." James Madison thought it so important he called "conscience the most sacred of all property."
Those that have attended Acton events this year have been further educated on the current threat to religious liberty, especially with the implementation of the HHS Mandate in 2012. The mandate requires employers to provide contraceptives to be included in their health plans. Protestants and Catholics alike have joined together to protest and file lawsuits against the measure.
The Church today requires more boldness to speak out against infringements upon religious liberty. Unfortunately, too many pulpits are all too quiet on Sunday mornings when it comes to the infringement upon our first freedom. Threats to religious liberty may not be as glaring or obvious as false gods or idols that we see in the book of Daniel, thus giving the threat perhaps greater danger in our time. "The Church is the conscience of the State," said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a grave danger when the Church is forced to retreat from public decision-making and the life and habits of a country. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is a reminder of the persecution we face now and future persecution. Daniel 3 is also a powerful reminder of the reward and honor of remaining faithful and testifying openly to our beliefs and conscience. The Psalmist declares,
"For you, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined; You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs; You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to rich fulfillment" (Psalms 66:10-12).